Jill Thorp and her family welcome a new sheepdog to the farm between the lanes of the M62

As seems to be the norm for us, this last week has seen us fall further and further behind.

Jill Thorp at the farm on the M62
Jill Thorp at the farm on the M62

The essential jobs of June roll over into July as the days march on.

The shearing tally has not fallen and the grass remains in the fields, growing lusher by the minute. No bad thing, but many of our fields are still awaiting their first cut and thanks to the stormy weather we’ve just endured, are looking rather flattened.

These last few weeks would have been busy ones for John-William and I. Cheshire County, possibly the Royal Highland and of course our two favourites, The Great Yorkshire and The Royal Welsh. Endless pony washing, tack cleaning, packing and unpacking of the horsebox.

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    My bank balance takes a severe battering at this time of the year, but it’s worth it. Seeing all the familiar faces, catching up with friends and enjoying camaraderie in the ring is priceless.

    The displays put on at the shows, the continuation of tradition, heritage and sheer British brilliance is worth every single penny. Alas, this year it is not to be, but maybe it will make next year even sweeter.

    Whilst our heads were down and our thoughts were focused solely on getting through lambing time, Sweep, our sheepdog, got old. He went from a steely, bullet-proof, sheep-moving machine to a slightly greying, not so invincible dog.

    His thirst and drive for work seemed to gradually ebb away, replaced with a tired, non-committed persona. It’s easy at lambing time for a dog to get weary and lose heart, so when we noticed a change in him, we started watching him more closely. Aches and pains became more obvious with his reluctance to leap to and from the bike and on many mornings he took some shifting from his bed.

    The reality was, old age was creeping in and with that thought, a sad realisation that we’d put too much on him. So with the weather leaving us with very little to do, I left father and son to view a possible replacement. They arrived home later that day, as I expected, with a new dog in tow.

    A great big smooth coated lad with a half black, half white face came rushing over, tail lashing from side to side enthusiastically. After a brief greeting he was whisked away by John-William, to be introduced to the other dogs and given a tour of the farm.

    So much of a shepherd’s life is spent with his or her dog. They arrive, so young, keen and fresh faced. Eager to please and so loyal, they wind their way into your heart, your very soul.

    Like a shadow, they are at your heel, shivering next to you in a cold winter storm and often being a shoulder to cry on when your day goes wrong.

    They form such a brief but hugely fulfilling part of your life and when they’re gone, the hole they leave behind is never truly filled. As Sam begins his journey with us, I have no doubt that he too, like those that have gone before him, will be cherished.